December 10, 2019

Ambassador Shulgin’s conclusions after the 24th Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention

Mr. Viktor Kholstov, Director of the Centre for Analytical Research on Chemical and Biological Weapon Conventions under the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Mayor General I.A. Kirillov, Chief of the Radiological, Chemical and Biological defense (RCBD) Troops at the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

After the end of the 24thConference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, hosted a press conference at the Russian embassy in order to draw some conclusions. Speaking to the press, he noted thatthis conference will be remembered for the adoption of two draft decisions by consensus. The draft decisions, presented by the Western troika – United States, Canada, and the Netherlands – and Russia, concern the update of the appendix to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“For the first time in the entire period of the existence of the Chemical Weapons Convention (open for signing in 1993), the register of poisonous substances controlled by the Convention has been updated with new two groups of chemicals, including one group of several hundreds of substances developed and patented in the United States as chemical weapons in 70’s and 80’s, as well as one group that was developed and studied in NATO laboratories” – Ambassador Shulgin explained. The Russian Ambassador was accompanied by two experts: Mayor General I.A. Kirillov, Chief of the Radiological, Chemical and Biological defense (RCBD) Troops from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, and Mr. Viktor Kholstov, Director of the Centre for Analytical Research on Chemical and Biological Weapon Conventions under the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade.

After a long period of fierce confrontation at the OPCW, the registration of these new substances showed that Russia and the United States still have the ability to come to the negotiating table and reach an agreement. The denouement of the issues associated with the lists can certainly be seen as a positive development.

While the registration of the new substances took place by consensus, the adoption of the OPCW program and budget for 2020 created problems during the 24th Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Russia, who fully paid its contribution to the budget for 2019, confirmed its disagreement with the so-called “Omnibus Draft Budget” program prepared by the OPCW Technical Secretariat. As Ambassador Shulgin explained, Russia considers this program illegitimate due to the fact that “it uses cash to balance previous years’ operations without the consent of all participants, which is a gross violation of the financial rules of our organization.Needless to say – the Ambassador continued – it is regrettable when a decision is imposed on the participating countries to the CWC, especially if such decision involves drawing money from them to finance other initiatives undertaken in the narrowly selfish interests of certain groups of states.”

“Our aspiration is simple and clear” – Ambassador Shulgin highlighted: “we wish the funds to be allocated to activities permitted under the convention.”
Russia, supported by China, asked to hold additional consultations on the 2020 budget. However, the United States’ delegation declared the need to vote without delay, breaking down a possible consensus. The outcome of the vote was the following: 106 votes in favor, 19 against, 17 abstentions, while many delegates left the room. 

Mr. Viktor Kholstov and Ambassador Shulgin.

The Russian delegation commented its position with these words: “We invariably emphasized our willingness to ensure the smooth functioning of the organization, provided that the money goes to activities permitted by the convention, and that our organization’s financial right is not violated.”

The debate on the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian city of Douma on April 4, 2018 has become an unsolved recurrent issue opposing the parts in the OPCW agora. “We, Russian Federation, fulfill our commitment and obligations to the OPCW regarding the destruction of chemical weapons” Mr. Shulgin said.

More than a year after the incident, the shadow of an alleged fraud committed in the preparation of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Douma is still present both in the medias and in the Conference, where Russia raised the issue. The leadership of the OPCW is set to attempt to find a solution to this issue – which continue to divide Russia and the US. Russia supports the initiation of an international briefing on the Douma report, with the participation of all members of the IUFS, both former and current. “However, our American colleagues” – Ambassador Shulgin noted – “pointed at financial and technical reasons to oppose the initiative”.

“We will uphold this reasonable requirement,” Mr. Shulgin continued. “It would be extremely short-sighted to pretend that nothing has happened, and that the IUFS report on Duma was impeccable. In doing so, we will only perpetuate the issue.

The origin of this crucial issue traces back to the assessment of the use of chemical weapons in Douma. The assessment was conducted by three external independent experts – mandated by France, United State and UK – and not by the OPCW technical secretariat. At the same time, Russia’s request of publishing and verifying the results of the report in an international briefing was refused. Russia is still asking to allow experts to review the report. “We are asking for ballistics studies, and they respond that they cannot disclose the identity of the three experts because they need to protect them. It is becoming a vicious cycle. The technical secretariat systematically refuses our requests” – Ambassador Shulgin complained.

The issues brought up by Russia concern: the mismatch between the sizes of the dropped cylinder and that of the hole in the roof; the lack of damage to the bed where the cylinder was found; the non -identification of the bodies; etc. These issues came back with force into Ambassador Shulgin’s speech.

“In fact, what kind of confidence can there be in future investigative processes if the case of Douma’s report is not set?” – he asked. “We believe that the OPCW, as we are told, is our common home, where we solve common issues or problems together. So, of course, you need to do this now. The price of the mistakes of the IUFS experts in conducting the relevant investigations is too high, since they directly affect international security. I would hope that the leadership of the OPCW will heed the concerns of a number of delegations and will draw the right conclusions.”

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